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Food, Energy and the Creation of Industriousness
Work and Material Culture in Agrarian England, 1550–1780


Part of Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series

  • Date Published: February 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521881852

£ 79.99

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About the Authors
  • Until the widespread harnessing of machine energy, food was the energy which fuelled the economy. In this groundbreaking 2011 study of agricultural labourers' diet and material standard of living, Craig Muldrew uses empirical research to present a much fuller account of the interrelationship between consumption, living standards and work in the early modern English economy than has previously existed. The book integrates labourers into a study of the wider economy and engages with the history of food as an energy source and its importance to working life, the social complexity of family earnings, and the concept of the 'industrious revolution'. It argues that 'industriousness' was as much the result of ideology and labour markets as labourers' household consumption. Linking this with ideas about the social order of early modern England, the author demonstrates that bread, beer and meat were the petrol of this world, and a springboard for economic change.

    • Unique account of the role of food in fuelling the early modern economy
    • Connects the value of labour to the economy with ideas about the social order of early modern England
    • A major contribution to our understanding of standards of living in the early modern period
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is certainly the most original and significant investigation of the living standards and working patterns of rural labourers in early modern England to appear for decades. It radically revises some previous assumptions, subtly nuances others, and raises new questions …' Keith Wrightson, Yale University

    'This excellent new study, based on impressive empirical research and inventive analysis, affords unprecedented insight on the working lives and standards of living of labouring people in early modern England. This book sheds important new light on consumption, agricultural improvement, and the 'industrious revolution' that predated industrialisation, and will prove indispensable to our assessment of the contribution of the labouring population to, as well as their experience of, economic change during a critical period of growth.' Alexandra Shepard, University of Glasgow

    'With this volume Craig Muldrew advances our understanding of living standards, industriousness, and the working lives of men, women, and children in rural England.' Journal of British Studies

    'Craig Muldrew's Food, Energy and the Creation of Industriousness … paints a picture of a moderately prosperous, hard-working population of wage earners, who made a decent living outside of the crisis periods of 1595–1630 and the late eighteenth century. The book has a lot to offer social and cultural historians, with a detailed examination of ordinary people's diet, of families' multiple sources of income, and of the material culture of the home.' Jane Whittle, History Workshop Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2011
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521881852
    • length: 374 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.73kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus. 69 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. What did the poor eat?
    3. Calories consumed by the poor
    4. Labourers' household goods
    5. Work and household earnings
    6. Agricultural labour and the industrious revolution
    7. 'Honest' and 'industrious' labourers?

  • Author

    Craig Muldrew, University of Cambridge
    Craig Muldrew is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge.

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